Japan will relax visa norms for Indian tourists, a move that would significantly contribute to enhanced people-to-people exchanges and mutual understanding between the two Asian giants, official sources said in Tokyo.
The simplification of Japanese visa procedures for Indian tourists is expected to be announced on Wednesday as part of the 'Japan-India Tourism Exchange Year 2007' launched by the two governments to boost bilateral relations, the sources said.
Japanese and Indian governments are keen to enhance people-to-people exchanges as the two Asian giants are emerging closer politically, economically as well as in security affairs.
"In this first India-Japan Tourism Exchange Year, we are certain that introducing history and tradition in a positive way will surely have significance in accelerating mutual understanding and exchange between the two nations," a Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) official said in Tokyo.
During the joint statement issued during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Japan last December, it was decided to designate Year 2007 as 'India-Japan Tourism Exchange Year', and Japan will participate in the South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE) 2007 to be held from April 19 and India will participate in the World Travel Fair in Japan in September.
The joint statement also sets target for increasing the number of visitors between the two countries to 300,000 by 2010, which will be almost the double of 2005 figures and to 500,000 by 2015.
The JNTO along with the Japanese Embassy in India is scheduled to host a seminar on April 18 in New Delhi to introduce Japan as a tourist destination for Indian tourists, a JNTO official said, adding that Japanese tourism industry experts will explain how to plan a tour to Japan and dispel the myth that the 'Land of the Rising Sun' is an 'expensive destination.'
"It is not always true. That reaction seems to come from lack of information on Japan in India," the JNTO official said when asked to comment on the general perception of Indians that touring Japan is an 'expensive proposition'.
"By offering enough information to the consumers as well as travel agencies in India through promotional activities, it is surely possible to attract budget travellers to Japan," the official said.
Based on the joint statement on the promotion of Japan-India Tourism Exchanges, Japan will implement such promotional activities as participating in travel fairs held in India, carrying out the invitation programmes for mass media and travel agencies, and tourism promotion seminars for travel agencies, the JNTO official said.
The number of Indians visiting Japan has steadily increased from 40,345 in 2001 to 62,505 last year, the JNTO official said, expressing confidence over achieving the target set by the two governments to increase the number of visitors between them to 300,000 in five years by 2010, which will be almost the double of what it was in 2005.